"Can you tell me," Celeborn said intently to his wife's kinsman, "why it is that I don't trust you?"
His face was earnest, and his request, though disconcerting, was honest.
"My Lord, that is something you must seek in your own conscience," Celebrimbor replied shortly, standing from the table to follow Galadriel from the dining hall.
"I have sought, believe me. And I cannot determine what it is. Pray, have you some insight?"
Celebrimbor should have been insulted, perhaps. But Celeborn's manner was not insulting, and he was questioning his own heart as much as his companion's.
"I daresay, you blame me for the deeds of my father. But you know that I renounced Curufin's claims on me long before he sought to usurp your brother-in-law's kingdom, or to imprison your cousin, or to destroy…"
Celeborn shook his head. "No, I place more blame for the fate of Doriath on myself than I could ever put on another." He smiled a gentle smile, full of regret.
"If that is the case, then I cannot imagine why you distrust me," Celebrimbor replied coolly.
"Nor can I. And I want to trust you." Celeborn extended a hand to Celebrimbor, which Celebrimbor grasped briefly before making a slight bow, and going on his way.
The lord of the Noldor, who, despite his estrangement from Curufin his father, claimed descent from Fëanor and Finwë as proudly as any, strode away from the hall, fists clenching and unclenching.
Celebrimbor had no use for Celeborn's trust, nor any desire for his friendship.
There was but one thing Celeborn possessed that Celebrimbor coveted.
She knelt near the doorway of his study, running her fingers over the pages of one of his books – a collection of sketches of Nargothrond and many of its residents - showing them to the shimmering little creature that was Celeborn's child. The book was his own work, and he was pleased to see anyone admire it.
The Lady Galadriel might have seemed a little sad to some. She had been given all the pride and ambition of the Noldor, with none of their skill in craftsmanship or artistry. But Celebrimbor did not see this as a cause for sadness, merely evidence of her incompletion. Incompletion which was made all the more glaring by the constrast of her Sindarin husband.
She lifted her eyes to his, and Celebrimbor wondered how he could ever think of her as imperfect. All the power of their race, which had blossomed under the tutelage of a Maia, shone from those eyes. It only wanted hands to shape it.
"Uncle Finrod?" Celebrian asked, reaching out to touch the sketch as well.
"That's right, little one," Galadriel replied, impulsively kissing the top of her daughter's head.
"Will I ever meet him?"
Galadriel paused, her expression grave. "I don't know," she answered softly.
"He's pretty," Celebrian observed, smiling, and looking up at her mother. "Like you."
Galadriel smiled in return. "And you," she said, pulling her daughter close.
"Lord Finrod's bride?" Celebrimbor asked his companion in surprise, watching the golden maiden hurry forward from the delegation from Menegroth to embrace the lord of Nargothrond.
"His sister," Celegorm replied to his young nephew, "and our cousin, Lady Galadriel. You knew that she lived in Doriath.."
She was laughing now, and Finrod had thrown an arm about her shoulders, as Celebrimbor had seen him do with Orodreth and Aegnor and Angrod. Her golden hair shone more brilliantly than the sunlight caught in its curls, and her eyes passed over him briefly as she surveyed the assembly.
Celebrimbor felt a chill run down his spine.
"Yes, she is a piece of work, isn't she? The sculptors use her face as a template for statues of the Valier. But don't be fooled by all that rosy skin and golden hair – she's tough as steel, and her heart is about as warm."
Even in his youth, Celebrimbor was already a promising smith's apprentice, and knew very well how to soften steel.
"Why don't you find Daddy?" Galadriel told Celebrian, standing and running her fingers through her daughter's silken hair, the color of electrum.
"Where is he?" Celebrian asked.
"That's why you're finding him," Galadriel pointed out, grinning fondly at her child.
Celebrian giggled and began to scamper off. "You're not coming, Mother?" she asked, pausing and turning after a moment.
"In just a little bit. I think Celebrimbor wants to speak with me," she answered, raising an eyebrow at her cousin, who had started from his memories when she first spoke. "Go on."
Celebrian obeyed, and Galadriel closed the book and handed it to him.
"Thank you. I can't think of a likeness of my brother that I prefer."
"High praise. I admired Lord Finrod, and it pleases me that you approve of my sketches."
Galadriel narrowed her eyes at him a little. "What is it, Celebrimbor?"
Celeborn's kisses were soft, and sweet. Somehow, she thought of them as cleansing. Their union had been one of reconciliation, and forgiveness. The Telerin Prince had placed his chaste kiss on the brow of his Noldor bride, and the world, like her, was washed new again for a moment…
Celebrimbor's kisses burned like the fires of his forge – the fires of his fëa.
Galadriel struggled out of his unexpected grasp. His hands were strong, but she had strength to match, and she pushed his face from hers, breathing hard.
He did not press back for the moment, but stayed, his face an arm's length from hers, his fingers still twined in her hair, his steel grey eyes still burning.
"You felt it, didn't you?" he murmured, chest heaving.
Galadriel glared at him with all the anger and indignation she could muster, praying to any who would listen that he could not see the fear and confusion mingled with them in her eyes.
"I could not very well have missed that, my cousin," she retorted acidly, her nails biting into the flesh of his hand. She moved to shove him further back, but he was immobile. He remained the length of her arm away.
He's stronger than I am. The thought should hardly have surprised her. Celebrimbor the smith, physically, had the advantage over Galadriel the…
Galadriel, Melian's student.
Galadriel, Celeborn's bride.
Galadriel, daughter of Finarfin.
Her will would bow to no one.
"You surprised me, cousin. And you forget yourself."
"No… I remembered myself just now. And I remembered you, Galadriel." He did not press closer, but might as well have, for the way his eyes bore into hers. "I know you felt it. I felt you feel it," he continued, pulling his hand from her hair, and brushing it softly against her lips, which she pulled into a scowl.
"You are my kin, Celebrimbor, our blood is…"
"No more similar than your blood is to your husband's, lady. I would ask you not to throw such pitiful, hypocritical excuses at me." A few strands of his raven hair had fallen in front of his eyes, and for one moment of awful fear, Galadriel noticed again how much Celebrimbor resembled his grandfather.
"I am a wife, Celebrimbor, and happily so," she answered quickly, to cover her fear. What reason had she to fear him? The strength of his arm was useless next to the strength of her mind… and his mind lay unprotected before her. They were even – she was a slender elfwoman caught off her guard, and he had lowered all his defenses before Melian's pupil, who could have him asleep on his feet or writhing in nightmares before she could bat an eyelash.
His lip curled a little, disdainfully, and his pearl white teeth flashed. "Celeborn. Tell me, Galadriel, has your Noldor blood been so diluted that he can understand you? Are you a naught but a swan lady with a head of Vanyar hair ?" Returning his fingers to her golden waves, he pulled her hair tight in the hand that he wrapped in it, and Galadriel tried not to flinch. "No," he continued, letting his hand loosen. "That was not what I felt. I felt the fire of your spirit respond to mine, Galadriel."
Celebrimbor's grey eyes fluttered shut, and his thick dark lashes stood out starkly from the white of his cheek. He covered her mouth with his again, and breathed her in…
Galadriel's fingers tightened, breaking the skin of his hand.
And in that moment, she feared his fire and passion might consume her.
In the next, he was nursing his bleeding lip with his bleeding hand.
Galadriel rubbed at her fist a little where it had connected with his face, and took a deep breath.
"You are your father's son, as surely as he was his…"
"I am not Fëanor, Galadriel. I am not a phantom of the past, but flesh and" he smiled a little ruefully as he looked at his hand, "blood. Present. Celebrimbor. And I love you."
"Indeed you are not Fëanor, but I see him in your eyes. Keep your distance, for Varda's sake," Galadriel bade, her voice raised a little as he moved forward.
"Do you hear but half of my words? I love you Galadriel. I burn with it."
Galadriel took another step back, and straightened.
"And I understand your spirit as your Sindarin husband cannot."
"What," she began softly. "What is it you understand, Celebrimbor? What is it you love?"
His eyes swept over her, and his face became worshipful.
"You. The Golden Lady of the Noldor. Your ambition, your power, your dignity, your intelligence, your beauty…. You. All that you are."
And Galadriel knew… it was not Celebrimbor's spirit she feared might consume her…
But her own.
Celebrimbor was her compliment – a lense for her light, to make it seem all the more brilliant.
And Celeborn was her opposite, her foil – moonlight to her sunshine, water to her flame, a chorus of woodwinds to her brass, and silver to her gold.
"Consider, Celebrimbor, that one can understand something without possessing it."
"I do not wish to be worshipped," she replied.
"Do not know what love is," Galadriel completed for him, not unkindly.
Celebrimbor looked away, his fists tightening. When he looked back, his smile was empty. "Then I shall worship you. I cannot help myself."
"And I shall pray for you," she replied, not liking the pain in his eyes, and meaning it.
Celebrimbor's goddess left his study, and Celeborn's wife happened upon her husband and daughter not far away, in the garden.
Celeborn was watching the stars, but Celebrian seemed far more intent on the fireflies.
Galadriel sat beside her husband, and he turned to smile at her, the starlight sparkling in his stormy grey eyes.
"Celeborn… when you look at me…what do you love?" The moment the words passed her lips they sounded foolish – vulnerable. If she rejected worship, what was this love that she would accept?
Of course she knew. But she wanted to hear it.
Celeborn laughed his beautiful laugh, and shook his beautiful head a little.
"Galadriel, beloved, you know there are things about you that I do not always like. But I love them, because they are you. I'm afraid my love is too illogical to explain away." He smiled at her, and leaned forward to kiss her.
Celeborn's spirit had a fire of its own – one that burned pure and bright, like a blue flame. But it did not threaten to consume her, nor did it magnify her glory.
In fact, she could hardly think of herself at all.
"When next you see your cousin, you might tell him that while drinking strong wine lacks an element of wisdom, it is considerably more foolish to do so before kissing someone else's wife."
Celeborn's eyes were inquisitive, but not reproachful. There was another emotion there, but one she was not sure she wanted to read.
"Did he hurt you?" he continued quietly. "Or, should I ask, did you hurt him?" A dry smile pulled at Celeborn's lips.
"Not seriously," Galadriel replied, returning the ironic grin. "I think, for the sake of Celebrimbor's dignity, we should not speak of it just now."
"Forgive me," Celeborn responded quickly, nodding.
"Daddy, I caught one!" Celebrian's little voice rose delightedly, her hands cupped around a flash of topaz light.
"My clever girl! May I see him?" Celeborn hurried to kneel at their daughter's side, all trace of irony gone from his beautiful smile.
How like the gentle boy of Doriath she fell in love with he still was, she pondered, as he tenderly explained to Celebrian that she could not keep the firefly, only visit with him a while.
Was she still the golden maiden who lost her heart?
How they sparkled in the starlight – her daughter and her husband.
"Come have a look, little one."
"They're not going to hurt you." Fëanor raised an eyebrow at his niece, mocking expression daring her to come forward.
Never one to back down from a challenge, Galadriel took a few steps forward, but paused. The gems, inside their coffer, cast a glow of starlight onto Fëanor's flawless face.
"Why?" she asked, abruptly.
Fëanor blinked. "I beg your pardon?"
"If you want starlight, you need only turn your eyes to the sky. If you want the light of the Trees to mingle, you need only wait for Telperion and Laurelin to bloom together. Why put it in a crystal? Why did you make those?"
"Have you ever held a star in the palm of your hand?" he replied, his own hand disappearing into the coffer to let his fingers fall over the Silmarils.
Galadriel didn't bother to answer that.
"Have you never wanted the Mingling of the lights to last eternity?"
He looked up at her, and she met his eyes steadily. Unexpectedly, he smiled.
"Perhaps you haven't," he mused, reaching out a hand to softly touch a strand of her hair that lay on her shoulder. Galadriel flinched, but did not back away. "In short," he continued, "to hold the light of the trees in my hand… to posess beauty. To make it my own."
Galadriel shook her head and took a step back. "I don't think I want to see them."
Celeborn laid his sweet kisses on Celebrian's forehead, and for an instant, Galadriel felt the searing fire of Celebrimbor's lips still.
"Mother, want to see my…" Celebrian stopped midsentence when she realized her mother had left the garden. The firefly was making its way from between her tiny fingers. Antennae waving, it took flight, shining for an instant like a star.
"It's gone," she observed sadly.
"Let's catch another one, all right, princess?" Celeborn asked, smiling.
Celebrian could tell that Daddy didn't want to be smiling… he was worried. She didn't like it when Daddy worried. And if he wanted to catch a firefly, that's just what they'd do.
The forge glowed, and the metal threw sparks when Celebrimbor brought his hammer down in musical blows.
It was too large a hammer for the task he'd set for himself. The strip of metal was unfurling into a spray of delicate leaves, and he seemed intent on forming them with the grossly inappropriate tool.
And he was succeeding.
"A silver tree," he said bitterly to the figure who had appeared in the threshold of his workshop, as he carelessly thrust the fruit of his frustration into the barrel of water, producing clouds of steam.
"It's beautiful," she said simply.
"I see you've come to tell me what a fool I am," he observed, pulling off his leather gloves and wiping sweat from his white, soot-streaked forehead.
She did not speak to contradict him.
"For who but a fool would fall in love with his married cousin," he continued, lips pulling into a sneer, meant for himself, her, and all of Middle-Earth.
"Celebrimbor," Galadriel replied, by way of answer.
"And I do love you. You may tell me that I do not. You may even believe it, if it lightens your heart. But it will not change the truth."
He stood before her, bathed in the ruddy glow of his forge, a flawless image of a Noldor prince, and internally, as deeply flawed as any. The firelight shone on his raven hair, and his white cheeks glowed pink in the heat. He was as lovely as a statue he might've sculpted from marble, save that his magnificent form was bare only from hands to elbows. With Celebrimbor's work, it was always impossible to tell which was the more beautiful - creation, or creator.
"Forgive my words. I was… confused." She put a hand to her forehead.
"I managed confusion. How remarkable." Whether or not this was meant as sarcasm was impossible to determine.
"I cannot know your heart, and I have no right to judge –"
"You will not, you mean," he amended for her, pulling off his thick leather apron as the fires started to die.
"I might know your mind, if I wished, and if I had call," she began.
"No, I'm pleased enough that you chose not to pry."
"What might I find there?"
Celebrimbor smiled a smile that did not touch his eyes. "Typical Noldor arrogance. You are my equal, Galadriel."
She arched an eyebrow at him.
"And sooner or later, everyone chafes in the company of those less than himself. You of all people should understand that," he remarked dryly.
"I would ask that you leave my husband out of this," she retorted.
Hardly a flattering thing to say. Can Celeborn's merits not stand up to scrutiny? Or is it just that you feel this is so?
"I don't think you mean that," Celebrimbor answered wistfully.
"I…don't know what I mean," she muttered, rubbing her forehead again.
"Confused again?" He smiled a self-mocking smile.
Galadriel shot him a freezing look, but it took more than a look to freeze fire.
"My heart has the better part of it. That's what you felt. That's what you…"
"What did I feel?" Galadriel asked herself, her fingers going to her lips.
"What we might do together? What we might become? Galadriel, we are the same." He caught her by her elbows, and she tilted her face up to meet his steel grey eyes, soft as quicksilver. "You know my spirit and I know yours. If we were one…"
A lens for her light… just as she would be one for his. Eyes closed, he leaned towards her, lips parted slightly, and his beautiful hands reaching up to cradle her face.
Light… like the light of the stars on silver hair.
Celeborn, who had the strength to oppose her opinions, and still love her.
Celeborn, who taught her compassion and selflessness by his example.
Celeborn, who, like Finarfin, never hesitated to point out that hers was not the only light, and that it was only hers for the glory of Iluvatar.
Not the glory of Galadriel.
"Celebrimbor," she said, her tone making him open his eyes, and lower his hands. "I cannot deny, that … part of me desires what you offer. But I do not love you."
"Do not," he repeated, "or will not?"
"Do not, will not, can not. Not the way you want me to."
He took a step away from her, eyes again pained, and again hard.
"But I do respect you, cousin. And I will not make you some tool to further myself."
"And I am to believe that is all you would have me be?" "I fear that is what would happen if I…"
"You fear," he repeated, a little scornful again.
"I know," she corrected. "As do you, if you know me as well as you claim. And I will not allow it to happen. Celebrimbor," she said, capturing his eyes, "I love Celeborn."
Never breaking eye contact, he stepped back again. "We cannot chose whom we love."
Celeborn watched the branch of delicate silver leaves wilt and melt under the enthusiastic blows of Celebrimbor's hammer.
"Melting effigies?" he asked sarcastically.
More like beating them to formless lumps of slag, actually.
"I suppose you know the answer to your earlier question," Celebrimbor replied, ostensibly ignoring Celeborn's attempts at humor.
Celeborn snorted. "Celebrimbor… I do not think it would surprise you to learn that you were not the first to fall in love with Galadriel, nor will you be the last."
Celebrimbor's only response was to pound a little harder at the now unrecognizable strip of silver.
"I'll try not to hold it against you," he continued dryly. "After all, we have something in common, now." His smile was gentle, but Celebrimbor did not bother to look at it.
So, Celeborn had come to gloat. "Get out," Celebrimbor murmured.
"As you wish. But I…thought you might like to know. I think I've figured out why I don't trust you."
"And I should want to know this?"
"I believe I may be a bit frightened of you."
Celebrimbor let his hammer fall. "Is that supposed to make me feel better?" he snapped.
Celeborn shrugged. "It's not 'supposed' to do anything. It is."
"What is it you fear?" Celebrimbor asked, unable to contain the question.
"I think perhaps you don't give yourself enough credit. You may be capable of more than you know."
Celebrimbor was…. baffled. "And you fear that?"
"There is little more dangerous than someone who does not know his own strength."
"So I'm dangerous?" Celebrimbor asked skeptically.
"No. But it's possible." Celeborn crossed his arms, and his grey eyes met Celebrimbor's.
"I still want you to leave."
Nodding, Celeborn obeyed.
[Unfinished Tales "Of Celeborn and Galadriel" mentions Celebrimbor's love for Galadriel…
And he just wouldn't leave me alone until I wrote this.
This sequence of scenes takes place in the Second Age, before the forging of the Rings of Power.
As always, this is my expression of my love for Professor Tolkien's work, and I mean only the greatest respect towards him by letting my imagination play in his beautiful Middle-earth.
Many thanks to Deborah, for all her patience and insight!]